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January 28. 2013 9:15PM

Middleton voters to discuss changing schools, transportation woes Saturday

MIDDLETON - Residents will consider studying withdrawal options, obtaining three buses and a decrease in the budget this year.

The deliberative session is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in the Old Town Hall along Kings Highway. Voting will be March 12 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

While residents decided against a petition to withdraw from the Authorized Regional Enrollment Area (AREA) agreement with Farmington last year, Article 11 asks voters to reconsider and allow officials to study the feasibility and suitability of withdrawing from the agreement, which was enacted in 1972.

Based on a vote in Farmington last year, officials from both communities are in the process of reviewing and updating the AREA agreement.

Earlier this month, Middleton residents agreed to have the school board find more information about the possibility of sending some students to the Governor Wentworth Regional School District in Wolfeboro.

Despite recent conflicts between the two communities, School Board Member Ken Garry denies there is a rift between Farmington and Middleton. He said students and residents from the two towns work together, play sports together and remain connected. If approved, a committee - which includes two members from the Farmington School Board, two from Middleton's School Board, two selectmen and the superintendent as a non-voting member - will be formed. Once established, it has 180 days to submit its findings to the state Board of Education. If the state determines that the plan is suitable, residents will have to vote on the matter again.

As the warrants are drafted, Article 4 would appropriate $3,655,599 for the operating budget. It is $211,787 - or 5.8 percent - lower than last year's budget $3,867,386.

If residents reject the proposed budget, a default budget of $3,647,517 will be enacted and the district can hold a special meeting to discuss a revised operating budget.

The district is asking residents to buy or lease three school buses to replace its aging fleet. If approved, Article 6 would purchase a school bus for $81,336 by withdrawing $35,000 from a capital reserve fund, using up to $11,500 from the school bus repair budget and paying the $34,836 balance through taxation.

Additionally, articles 7 and 8 ask residents to enter a four-year lease for $83,000 and a five-year lease for $83,980, respectively. The two leases will cost $20,750 and $16,796 annually, which would be raised by drawing $11,500 from the bus repair budget for each article and drawing the remaining balance of $9,250 and $5,296, respectively, from taxes. If any of the bus articles fail at the polls, Article 9 asks residents to add $10,000 to the School Bus CRF.

jquinn@newstote.com

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